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The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is part of the European contribution to the International Space Station (ISS) program, whose main tasks are to perform significant logistics supply, station re-boost and ISS waste retrieval. After its launch by the Ariane 5 launcher, the ATV is designed to perform automated phasing and rendezvous concluded by a docking to the ISS.

From the start of the rendezvous operations tens of kilometres away from the ISS down to the last hundreds meters of the final approach to docking the ATV autonomously computes the manoeuvres and controls its trajectory relative to the ISS and its attitude thanks to on board Guidance and Control software. Until a relative distance of about 250m this system relies on the embedded Relative GPS Navigation algorithm that uses the ATV GPS receiver data in combination of the ISS GPS receiver data obtained via a proximity link.

The Navigation Support Office possesses a long-term experience in the field of GPS-based satellite orbit determination and supports the ATV project via several activities:
  • independent validation of the software at ATV-CC
  • analysis of simulated data to cross-check the performances of the operational software at ATV-CC
  • provision of off-line precise orbital information of the ATV during the rendezvous to be used as reference when assessing the accuracy of real-time products via comparisons
  • provision of operational GPS visibility products during the rendezvous